July 17, 2011

Magpies of the night

The other night I went to bed quite late, around 1pm. Lying in the darkness and silence I heard Magpies warbling away. They were beautiful haunting songs, not cries of alarm, but thoughtful and melodic tunes - very different from the songs that mark the rising of the sun. I thought it strange that they were singing in the middle of the night and wondered if it were a full moon, if something had happened to my local family of magpies that they could not rest, or if it were a special night of celebration? (this reminded me of a story my Dad told me of one morning noticing spider webs covering everything - signs, trees, cars, etc - then hearing that the previous night was the yearly occurrence of spider migration).
The next day, while having a coffee with my son in a cafe a few suburbs away, I heard a woman telling the barista of hearing Magpies singing all night long. It seemed it happened all over our area. I am not sure why they were singing but it seems it was a magical magpie night.

Sera Waters

A flocking good response

Hey Sera,

So today we were free as a bird and aswe had to go into town anyway we thought we'd kill two birds with one stone and see your show - so we went to SAM's place to cast an eagle eye over Flocked but got lost in the museum - which was hawkward and left us in a bit of a flap! So instead of chickening out we flocked to the front desk to ask a nice security guard who gave us a birds eye view map of the place. We weren't far off as the crow flies but had to waddle up the stairs - poor Simon struggled as he is pigeon toed. But we didn't fowl it up the second time and finally found the right place (although we had to duck down to see the bottom drawer).

So from two birds of a feather, rad show cousin! Really loved the work - you'll be heron from me about it again.

Have a happy holiday
Love Jules and Simon

The danger of the open sunroof

A few years ago I was driving with friends in a van with a sunroof. The sunroof was open, we heard some kind of odd thump and the girlfriend sitting in the back telling a story stopped her sentence short; gave a kind of startled noise and began to panic loudly with noises. I looked behind me at her and noticed some kind of clear and milky liquid on her face. It was running from her forehead down the side of her face, into her eye and mouth. I was really confused and asked “what’s happened?”.

She said “a bird....” and promptly started to gagging amidst her unintelligible noises - unable to talk. Turns out the thump we heard was kamikaze bird poop that hit the roof of the car, and something of the remainder had hit Alana in the face.


June 7, 2011

Robin's Story

Robin told of witnessing the first flight of a young galah in her back yard. The galah was shepherded by its parents to a safe shelter in the fork of a tree for the night. There was much calling and ado to make sure things were alright. During the night there was a great commotion coming from the tree…a possum was calling out in distress and the young galah was matching its din. The distress calls persisted so Robin went out to investigate. The young galah had taken shelter in the possum’s haunt and the galah’s response to being confronted by the possum was to grab its nose in its beak. There was the possum shrieking in pain and the galah holding on for dear life …too young or scared to know when to let go. The noise continued into the night.

In the morning the young galah lay dead on the ground. Robin picked up the dead bird and buried it under some composting leaves and cuttings. The parents came to the tree shelter and called for their young offspring… with no reply they became distressed and called more frantically. After a while they flew off to a nearby tree, then back again and carried on with their calling with increasing distress. This behaviour went on for a couple of days.

Gradually Robin realised she had an empathy with the parents because she understood that they, like herself, were feeling distress, turning to grief, with no way of resolving the problem. Robin had carried a grief for her whole life. She had never known her father, her only contact being for a few weeks when she was three. Her father joined the Australian Air Force during world war 2 and was assigned to fly in England before Robin was born. He came back to Australia three years later for a few weeks before being assigned to fly in New Guinea where he was killed in action. There was no closure for Robin growing up and never knowing her father, and she carried this grief throughout her life. Seeing the birds’ distress she realised that she had to give them closure. She retrieved the body of the young galah from the compost and placed it nearby on the grass. The mother bird flew down and inspected the dead bird and tried to rouse it. When sherealised there was no life she called to her mate and they flew off together, not to return.

Robin was left feeling her own relief in that she had also found some deeper understanding of or resolution for her own lack of closure.

Recorded by David Kerr from a phone call with Robin from the south coast ( south of Adelaide)

May 1, 2011

They say it is lucky to be pooed on by a bird

When I was of pre-school age and early into my school years I used to be looked after by a family friend while Mum and Dad were working. Lyn transferred to me her love of baking and I have fond memories of sitting in her kitchen taking in the smell of the mixing bowl, then oven.
One day Lyn and I were returning home after a trip out...to the hairdresser, the shop...I am not sure. She put on her blinker and made the turn into her driveway and gasped, making a loud utterance simultaneously. This was unusual behaviour for Lyn. Her window had been slightly down, only about ten centimetres, but nevertheless a bird, I imagine a cheeky and cunning one, managed to aim their poo directly into the small gap to splat all over Lyn's face. It was a big one. I remember the joint feelings of surprise and puzzlement (I didn't know that could happen!), disgust and a stifled amusement. Lyn wasn't impressed. Even though they say it is lucky to be pooed on by a bird, I wouldn't put this in the lucky category.

Sera Waters
(memories from Mount Gambier)

Chicken Peace

About twenty years ago I had a small strawberry farm in Redland Bay, just outside Brisbane. It was two days after my father had passed away from cancer. I was driving my van to market using a road that was also used to transport chickens from farms to the abattoir. 

One of these poor souls had somehow escaped from it's mobile cage and landed in the short grass just off the bitumen. I spotted it with a large crow standing behind it. As I pulled up the crow quickly flew off. My thoughts were to take this lucky escapee home to live out its years with my free range ckooks at home.

As I approached I could  see that this shivering creature had had the complete back half of its flesh eaten away from its bones by the crow. My instinct was to take it home and try to nurse it back to health but its injuries were so horrific that it would probably died a slow painful death. After much deliberation I came to the conclusion that I had no choice but to put it out of its misery. I stoked its head softly a few times, shed a tear, said I was sorry and ended its miserable life with a snap of its neck.

It wasn't until a few days later, after Dad's funeral, that I realised that this decrepit bird had helped me to understand that my father whose body was being eaten away by this horrid disease was much better off in peace and out of his pain. 

To this day I still remember those small sad eyes staring at me and appreciate that rather than its planned fate of being someone's Sunday lunch it had provided me with a much greater gift which I truly value.

Colin Williams

Pigeon & Swallow

One evening, on my way to the shed, I saw a pigeon on the ground.   While this may not seem much to anyone, it was really was an unusual sight, as the only pigeons to be seen were in Kingscote.  This bird had a tag on its leg, and after much to and froing we managed to read the phone number, only to find that it was in Baccus Marsh!  Apparently the bird had flown in the opposite direction to where it was supposed to go.  It was expected in Melbourne!  The guy said to take it to where there were other pigeons, and release it.  We opened the shed door, and it flew in and landed on one of the shelves.  In the morning,when we opened up the shed it flew onto my head! It was a very strange feeling and it did not seem to want to go until it was tempted by some food in a cage, which we took to Kingscote, and then opened to release the bird.

These birds always seem to be chatting to each other, as they line up on the pergola outside the front door. They were the first to be heard when we camped on our property.  No wonder they are called the welcome swallow! They seem to spend their lives either chatting, or flying low over the grassy areas catching insects, and often came quite close. They are very sociable
In fact, we had a couple nesting just outside our  front door.  We had built into the stonework  nesting holes, at the recommendation of a friend, and a pair of swallows decided to make a nest in one of them.  We were delighted, and watched with interest, discovering that babies had arrived as the parents were kept very busy going to and fro, obviously feeding them.  Actually, one day we shone a torch inside and confirmed that there were baby swallows in the hole.
Then the unthinkable happened.  One of our resident snakes, on his daily external tour of the house
managed to climb the wall, and ate all the baby birds.  He would not be deterred from climbing that wall – we tried everything, bar trying to injure him.  The interesting thing is that some months later, on his usual tour, as the snake was approaching the wall, a swallow came flying to the opening, and hovering in front of the hole started to chatter away very excitedly.  It appeared to us that he was trying to warn any bird that may have been in the hole!
Another time, the snake was not having much luck climbing another section of the wall, to get to the baby birds, so he climbed up one of the pillars and along the beam, then the gutter, and tried to lean over it to get to the nest.  He fell, and undeterred tried the whole procedure again.  However, the babies had fledged, and were happily chattering away at the front of the house!

Janet Martin
Kangaroo Island

April 21, 2011

Bird Terror

At one stage when I was growing up we had a pet budgie.  We were terrified of him.  He was a biter.  A stray finger in his cage or even the most gently offered out hand would result in a sharp, stinging nip.  We’d let him out of his cage to fly around the back of the house, our hands folded up carefully within stretched out jumper sleeves.    He’d fly around in a bit of a rush then come to a sit still on your shoulder, where he was in prime position to terrorise you.  It was a strange sensation, having this small, vulnerable body perched next to your head, and feeling the closeness of his little skull next to your own, almost sensing his feathery little cheeks near your skin, and the quick, clawing sensation of his movements.  At any moment he might land a sudden nip to your earlobe. We never had any idea how we were going to get him back in his cage.   I’m still amused to remember the particular look on my dad’s face in a panic with the bird on his shoulder, eyes squinting and features contorted, he kept yelling at us to, “Get him off!  Get him off!”  And of course the rest of us were too scared to come to his aide. 

Viv Miller

A Feathered Tale

Pete and I shared a unique bond.  It began when we both arrived at my very first home on the same day.   Pete, a living feathered gift whom my grandfather had adopted from an ailing friend, crossed the threshold just minutes before I did.  After being born five days earlier, my parents had returned with me, a precious bundle and the final addition to their family of five.  I am told that between Pete and me, we made quite a rumpus.
Hatched a sulphur crested cockatoo, Pete resided in a large, shiny silver cage that hung from the edge of the veranda and overlooked my proud father’s veggie garden.  Amidst the years of watching my father tend that garden each season, from the planting of seeds and seedlings, to the reaping of organic vegetables that made their way keenly to our kitchen and those kitchens of my aunts and grandmother, Pete was firmly immersed within Greek orthodox culture.  Pete had been present at garden weddings at our home, had witnessed the danced ushering in of many New Years with copious amounts of cousins and second cousins, overheard the hunger dramas that went with enduring Lent before Easter, and had even become accustomed to the smell of cigar smoke as it wafted from the living room where my father and uncles played cards with windows open in the summer.  This was Pete’s familial Greek background.
For me, however, Pete embodied the unassuming role of listening friend.  Growing up, I had taken a seat on the white, wrought iron bench beside his cage out the back and chatted to him about how my days had been filled.  He’d heard a lot.  He’d listened as I perfected my three times tables, sat perched as I whined about my big sisters teasing me, and bopped his head as I taught myself song lyrics to the Top 40 hits.  He seemed to digest it all.  Occasionally he’d choose a word from my anecdotes or lamentations and practice it awhile, in typical cockatoo accent that would of course, always leave me giggling.  I found both humour and solace in the way Pete reflected my trivialities of life in Cockatoo.
As one can imagine, Pete learned to imitate the Greek language heard incessantly around the house.  In actual fact he was multi-lingual.  He’d picked up bits of pidgin English communicated between my middle aged parents and me, as well words in standard English, a language I had endeavoured to master in order to blend in as a first generation Australian of Greek heritage at a predominantly Anglo Saxon school.
My relationship with Pete had lasted through childhood and into adolescence.  For me it was a lifetime.  On the morning that Pete didn’t greet me with one of his rhetorical questions, I knew something was wrong.  As I walked slowly toward his cage and saw an empty branch on my approach, I knew I’d missed goodbye.  Laying face-up, Pete’s pure, white plumage cushioned him on the base of his cage.  His eyes were dark and his once iridescent, yellow crest, appeared a shade or two lighter to me.  At fifteen years of age, I raised a hand to my face and wiped away tears that flowed freely.  My mother stood at the door with a pressed, cream tablecloth held over her arm, ready to take him away.
Pete will always be remembered as our loyal, family pet cockatoo that spoke Greek.

Nerina Dunt

April 15, 2011

No script, just verbs, short ones

Carmel Williams
Parkholme SA

The Birds in our Garden

Matilda Redshaw
Aged 3


Posted into Nest Box at SA Museum, April 2011

Putting the pigeon amongst the cats

Several years ago, while living in Prospect, one of our cats caught a young pigeon, a squab really, probably out for its first flight. The pigeon was in shock, instinctively lying limp, but undamaged apart from some lacerations. I rescued the bird and secured it in an old wire poultry basked and hung it from the studio rafters to see if it might recover. I kept an eye on the bird and provided water and some crushed grain. A few days passed and I realised it was paying close attention to my comings and goings. I thought it time to test the bird's flight within the studio space. It seemed well enough repaired and I decided on making its big release.

I took the bird to a clear piece of yard and attempted to throw it in the air. There was much flapping of wings but the feet clung fast to my fingers. I held the bird with my palms around the wing, and fingers fre,e threw again, but the flight lasted five seconds with the bird flying straight back to my body. I placed it on a tree branch, moved away, and it flew straight back to me. The pigeon wasn't leaving. I suddenly realised that I had become the parent. I had been imprinted on the bird's brain. I also realised that this pigeon had also been imprinted on me. There was a growing emotional tug, a little niggle of concern whenever I was not in the studio. As a parent I now had responsibilities towards this new dependent.

If this pigeon was not going to leave me, my first responsibility was to teach it how to coexist with cats for the cats had not given up a keen interest in retrieving what they saw as their bird. I also had to teach it to forage for food, where to roost and how to wash. Later I also became concerned that there was a lot of flapping but not much flight. There were intergrated lessons that involved broadcasting grain in the garden beds, watching until the cats began their pounce then leaping in to scare both predator and prey, then guiding the bird to a safe roost.

My children were envious of my relationship with the bird and annoyed that it would always choose to fly to me. The flights became longer between perch and hand or head or shoulder. Eventually I would leave the pigeon, now called Pidgey-didge, on a tree branch in the morning, go to work and be greeted at the end of the day with a flight from the perch to my hand. I would often have to fight off the urge to return home during the day as the emotional tug of parenthood exerted its pull. I even speculated it was the bird telepathically calling me....in the same way that budgies can let you know when they are hungry. You have the thought, you check the bowl and, sure enough, it's empty. I believe we totally underestimate the power of the bird brain.

This pattern went on for a couple of weeks. Progressively the whereabouts of the pigeon became less certain when I arrived home. Sometimes it was not there at all but would flap in when I called. One day, standing in the original release site, I was watching him do a fly over on a path that encountered another bird. He suddenly dropped into a tumble, pulled out and flew on in a criss-cross ascent. My heart leaped as I realised Pidgey-didge had finally got this thing he had been flapping away at. He was now enjoying flight.

Several weeks on and Pidge is now an adolescent. He was flying around most of the day, even away most of the day and sometimes overnight. Eventually a week would go by before he would return as if nothing was changed.

One day he was gone and didn't return....not until a year later. He was waiting when I came home from work. He flew down to me then flew back up to a roost on the verandah. He was not alone. He had returned with a mate. I was introduced and they hung around for a couple of days. I made a nesting box....but I missed the point. This was thanks and goodbye.

David Kerr

Sore Knee

A bird lived in the tree and he fell off and hurt his knee

Annabelle Martin
3 yrs

Painted Pairs

I am currently painting pairs of birds which visit my creek and garden in Nairne, SA.
I've 2 galahs
2 blackbirds which nested in my pot plant at the front door!
2 waterhens which are incredibly shy and move under the blackberries on the banks of the creek
2 yellow crested cockatoos
currently working on 2 rosellas in Australian gums (E. Ficifolia)
Can't stand caged birds!
Hope to promote stamping out keeping birds in cages and allow them to be FREE!

Rose Wallington

Play-Acting Magpies

It was a hot and dry day in February and I was waiting in a bus stop in Hazelwook Park. In an empty plot nearby, I was attracted to a commotion made by Magpies. One of them was gasping, lying on its back....and a few more around were cackling away. Assuming I might be able to help the Magpie in distress, I pulled out my drink bottle and approached it - at which the noisy magpies surrounding the magpie in distress flew away to nearby branches, still cackling all the way. When I was almost there, ready to pour some water into its mouth, the magpie in distress cooly stood up and flew away...!, leaving me wondeing what that "act" put on by the Magpies was supposed to mean?!?!


A really weird experience

 A couple of weeks ago at about 2 p.m. a woman called me to pick up a little possum which she found in the morning. When I drove along the gravel road I recognized a Galah sitting near the edge of the street and when I approached the bird it didn't flew away. So I stopped to have a look whether it might have been injured. The little fellow adjourned to the bushes where I discovered a second Galah. After the first bird presented his companion to me it flew away! The second bird was very weak and easy to catch. So I drove home with two creatures: an approximately 8 weeks old pinky possum and a starving cockatoo weighing only 184 g.
Fauna Rescue Member Elke

April 10, 2011

Mountain Fly

I was feed two birds. They born baby. But I didn't know that they has baby. So I didn't give them black cover. So they born and eat it. I'm afraid that!! and they think taste good. They born and eat it continuously. I feel scared, when I go to mountain, I let them fly.

Mina Kim

The Taxidermist

He likes his wildlife
stuffed and mantled
Glory seconds
like frozen food

He deconstructs the world
works alone in used parts
faint smell of dead things
even in the deep freeze,
it's unmistakable

When he's done crying
he resurrects
only what you see
even to the flick of head feathers
the glint in an eagle's eye

They will never move again
never feel the rush of air
under wing, scent of a mate
the manic verb hunger

Slow, patient, quill by quill
He is a lover of silk
the mathematics of form
a reader of articulations

The evidence of his art
proud clean birds
perfect eyes and stance
I feel him

up under my skin
with Plaster-of-Paris fingers
He sweats through my pores
quick eyes searcn.

His mind asks
how to freeze that flawless
rhythm of biology
the colour of lived chemistry

I came here to learn about form
nine flight feathers
five secondary feathers
four types of wings-

but find motive more
What it is to gut
the object of one's affection.

Carmel Williams 2006

Rita Hall

The Paintings of Rita Hall
Rita Hall
Blue Bird - Skins
Oil on canvas,  85 x 92cm. 2009


The following is an extract from the catalogue essay of exhibition, "Rita Hall. Museum Studies 1969-2009' held at the South Australian Museum in June 2009.
".......This study was not ornithological nor scientific but artistic. My interest, as usual, was in their forms, the shadows they created, their colours, textures and shapes. It became my constant project to find a way to make art out of these very real objects. The notion of making paintings out of birds which pretended to be alive seemed absurd in the presence of so much complexity and beauty, and in the way they were presented as skins.
I had no wish to add anything to the bird skins, but simply present them in an honest way, as they had appeared directly to me. The liberties I did take were to arrange then into compositions, either singularly or in groups, to provide opportunities for formal art making structures. I reasoned that the skins, like many other objects in the museum, already carried their own meanings, their relevance for scientific study and their own histories. They seemed a perfect metaphor for the ecological issues of the contemporary world and had no need for embellishment with artistic symbols or devices. I wanted the graphic impact of the real just as the earlier etchings had been."

Stupid Bird

This is a song my kids, Zaine (11) and Cinnamon (3 ¾), and I wrote about a bird that almost crashed into the car window. I said ‘O that poor bird’, and Cinny said, ‘No Dad, that’s a stupid bird’. Here’s the song, to which they both contributed lyrics. It’s sung in a late 60s Stones’ vibe:

It was a stupid bird
Flyin’ in the sky
It flapped its wings
An’ it tried t’ fly
It snapped its beak
But it could not speak
It was a stupid bird
Stupid bird
Stupid bird
Stupid bird

There was a stupid bird
Laid an egg
Said, ‘man what’s this thing doin’
In my bed?’
It was a stupid bird
Stupid bird
Stupid bird
Stupid bird

Andrew Herpich, with kids, Zaine (11) and Cinnamon (3 ¾)


While we were 10,000 miles apart and waiting, waiting, for the visa which may never come, he sketched out our dream life. We would live by the beach, there would be laughter and two lovebirds. It was corny but cute. At last, the visa came through, I flew to Australia, to my freedom. The beach house was rented and the birds collected.

We let them fly free in the house, no, free wasn’t right.  They belonged in nature, not in a cage, not in a lounge room. We knew this.

We bought a house, the first house either of us would really truly own. He kept asking was it right for me, to be 10,000 miles away and setting down roots in foreign soil. Yes, I said, the homesickness has gone, this is my home now.

I chose the house. He never liked it: the energy, the d├ęcor, the yard, the neighbours. He didn’t like the area either, too far from the beach. I said it had everything we wanted, he had to imagine it finished, we could never get such a big house on the beach, the suburb was a sleeping giant.

On the day we moved in, our lovebirds escaped, wriggling out from their impenetrable fortress. I was so happy they had their freedom, happy but jealous. He said they stood no chance against the local sparrowhawk. I said you had to dream.

I also feared it was an omen and so it seemed when our house was burgled, then vandalised; things started to break and break down. And there I was caged in the stupid house.

Then, in winter, we painted the house, covering the negative vibes. We lit fires and drank red wine. He planted a rose garden which bloomed.

And one day it happened: we spotted them above, flying for all their little lives were worth. They had freedom and at last so did we.

By Anonymous

April 1, 2011


I think birds should live together in flocks. We should not hunt birds like we do now.
Claudia Westlake
Elizabeth Downs

One bird and three eggs

Once upon a time there was a bird and it flew just like a paper plane into a bird hole and after some time she layed an egg and two other eggs and then there was four bids.
Grace Angley
Age 6


My name is Alister. I like picking up bird feathers and giving them as gifts to my Mummy. I like to collect very bright feathers and we try and guess which bird they belong to. I also like to chase birds. Even though I get told off I still try and catch them. Mummy says it's my caveman instinct to hunt. If I find a feather that is yucky I chase my big sister with it.
Alister Fitzgerald
Age 4
Tea Tree Gully

Birds my fascination

Since I was a child
my fascination persists
watching, observing, enjoying
I love birds of all kinds
gentle ones, colourful
martial ones, hunters
all are caring creatures of the universe.
The magic craftmen of nests
perfect builders of dwellings
sophisticated fortresses

birds in my garden
lighting up my life
fascination holds me
to see them in line
flying above
and down in my roof
doves all making love
I am sad only
because their endangeredhabitat
the bird needs their trees
they need their space
I draw them with love
trying to catch a flight.

Age 74
Plympton Park

Wondrous Birds

Over the last few weeks I have been watching my 14 month old son discover birds in our backyard.  They're birds that I wouldn't normally consider very exciting - pigeons and magpies - but to him, they are a wonderous sight.  On some occassions he stands in wonder, face towards the sky, watching them fly high above his head.  Other times he stands, giggling, arm outstretched, with his little finger jabbing and pointing at the sky.  But my favourite moments are when he turns to me, "Mum, Mum", with a huge smile on his face, eyes gleaming, wanting me to share in this moment of joy and discovery in his life.
Megan Waters